Protein is an excellent macronutrient to keep satiety levels in check and to build muscle strength, so it’s super important to have protein before and after workouts, as well as spread about throughout the day. As for the amount, it varies based on the person, activity level, age, and a few other factors, but in general, you should aim to have protein with each meal and snack, along with healthy fats, some fiber, and complex carbs.
The best way to incorporate protein into your routine is to work towards pre-workout protein—something smaller to not weigh you down when exercising but filing enough to provide energy and staying power—as well as post-workout protein to help damaged muscles repair and recover.
Not sure what to eat? Here are the best ways to enjoy protein around your workout schedule. As for the “when,” eat a bit before and afterwards, without waiting too long after the workout to fuel back up. Eat within an hour!
When Should I Have a Protein Shake?
Pre or Post Workout
You can have a protein shake before workouts or after workouts, as it’s a form of fast energy and muscle recovery that’s easy to enjoy on the go. If you do go for a pre-workout protein shake, make sure it’s a little lower in calories and size, compared to the post-workout sip.
Why? You want to feel energized for that sweat session but you also don’t want to fill up on excess protein, calories, and fat, as they may weigh you down and cause abdominal discomfort while you’re running outdoors or breaking a sweat in that HIIT class.
You want to avoid having too much liquid in your belly too, as you don’t want to have to leave the workout to run to the bathroom either. So, if you have a pre-workout shake, keep it smaller and aim for around 9-10 grams of protein—try adding in a little nut butter or oats, some fruit and a green, like spinach or kale, and some almond milk or yogurt. Or just go basic with protein powder and some water or almond milk.
If you’re having a protein shake after a workout, then you can aim for 15-25 grams of protein in the shake to recover adequately. Same ingredients, but larger portions.
When Should You Eat Protein Bars?
Pre or Post Workout
You can also enjoy a protein bar. If you are having a pre-workout protein bar, aim for one that has 9+ grams of protein and comes from wholesome sources that won’t cause abdominal discomfort while working out. For instance, choosing nut butter as a plant based protein is great, as opposed to choosing something with dairy or whey, which might aggravate the stomach in those with sensitivity.
If you’re fueling up afterwards with post workout protein, you can still eat that protein bar but aim for having 15-20 grams of protein for a more balanced meal. So, maybe add a bit more nut butter on top of the bar or pair the bar with a small shake or string cheese or jerky stick!
Should I Eat Greek Yogurt Before or After a Workout?
Pre or Post Workout
Greek yogurt is kid-friendly and packed with protein to improve muscle repair and to keep you full. Plus it is not heavy on fats to weigh you down as a pre-workout protein source, either. You can enjoy a cup before working out with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, or you can use it in a protein before or after a workout.
You can even swap it with kefir, which is another great protein source that is creamy and thick just like yogurt! And both have probiotics, to promote better gut health and digestion—great for keeping you regular and avoiding any digestive issues mid-workout!
What is The Best Thing to Eat Before a Workout?
Banana and Nut Butter
Since pre-workout you need some fast acting carbs for fuel, try adding nut butter to a banana for a bit of natural sugar and carbs as well as filling fat and protein to promote endurance. That way you can get through the workout and feel strong while doing so! Plus, bananas have potassium and electrolytes to keep you hydrated as you are working out.
What Should I Eat After Exercising?
Beans and Canned Fish
Post-workout protein can be found in beans, legumes, and canned fish, as well as certain grains, like quinoa, but these all happen to be very fiber-filled, which can lead to abdominal cramping and discomfort before exercising.
So, instead of getting gassy for that workout class, hold off on these rich protein sources until you’ve finished. Then, prepare a great salad with canned fish and beans or whip up a hearty grain and bean bowl that has fiber, protein, and more to speed muscle repair. You can also make eggs with beans or canned salmon—eggs are high in protein and work well as a post-workout protein source.
So, is Protein Before or After a Workout Best?
As long as you integrate these delicious and protein dense meals around your workouts, you’ll be able to strengthen and build muscle and feel more energized during your workouts, too. And you’ll be nourishing your body well, so you’ll feel the effects in several areas!